It’s certainly a tragedy when anyone takes their own life. I feel very sorry for the surviving family members and colleagues affected by the suicides of two U. of Iowa professors accused of sexual harassment who took their own lives last year.
And yet. I have little patience with this Chronicle of Higher Education article about them. You can file it under the category of “but he was such a really wonderful person! There’s just no way he could have done these things!” Or, alternatively, “Those TERRIBLE women RUINED the lives of these WONDERFUL men!”
You are a university president. You naturally wish to avoid scandal and negative publicity during your administration. The time to make it mandatory for all faculty and staff to undergo training in how to avoid sexual harassment is:
A: When you take office, or shortly thereafter.
B: After one of your professors is caught emailing female students a quid pro quo: A’s if they would expose their breasts and allow him to fondle them.
If you are University of Iowa president Sally Mason, you will, of course, pick option B.
If this is only the first time the esteemed Professor Miller has engaged in such shenanigans, I will eat his shoes rather than puke on them. I’m betting it’s not.
Meanwhile, over at the University of Missouri,
So I’m skimming along in Google Reader, thinking it’s the year 2007, when whoa! I happen upon this post by Female Science Professor. Did he actually call her “science lady”? WTF? What millennium are we living in?
And this is the kind of response you get from the authorities when you are calling about a long-standing, well-documented problem of stalking/harassment. But hey, she wasn’t actually physically assaulted by the stalker, so what’s the big deal, right? Plus, she was asking for it.
The Chronicle of Higher Education’s news blog has a little item on Joseph Schlessinger. You may know him as the “internationally known researcher and head of the pharmacology department at Yale University” famous for his “his work in figuring out how information flows between a cell surface and the cell — studies credited with laying the groundwork for several treatments for cancer”.
Or you may know him now as the jerk-ass who allegedly sexually harassed his secretary so frequently and so long that she eventually had to quit her job to get away from him.
Following up on my entry on Joanna Russ’s book, How to Suppress Women’s Writing, and its application to women in science and engineering…
In discussing “prohibitions”, Russ notes”
First of all, it’s important to realize that the absence of formal prohibitions against committing art [or science] does not preclude the presence of powerful, informal ones.
These include poverty and lack of leisure, the latter arising from overwhelming duties to family and home. Even our heroines had to overcome this latter prohibition:
Marie Curie’s biographer, her daughter Eve, describes her mother’s cleaning, shopping, cooking, and child care, all unshared by Pierre Curie and all added to a full working day during Madame Curie’s early domestic years, which were also the beginnings of her scientific career
Makes those two Nobels look even more impressive, doesn’t it?
So, what would be an example of someone creating a hostile environment in the workplace or educational setting?
An example of “frequent, non-trivial acts of a sexual nature” might be, oh, say repeatedly raping your lab assistant nearly 80 times. The rapist in this case was R. Igor Gamow, “a prominent inventor and chemical engineer who was fired by the [University of Colorado] in 2004 for ‘moral turpitude.’ ” The multiple rapes took place between 1995 and 1998. (See The Chronicle of Higher Education daily news, May 5, 2006.)
Or, as Kay Weber alleges in Weber v. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, having jock straps and condoms placed in your mailbox and having derogatory sexual comments including your name written on a public blackboard. Among other things.
It was Faramir in The Lord of the Rings who described Frodo’s task as “a hard doom and a hopeless errand”. I must confess to feeling that way myself about my own self-imposed task of reporting to you about the pond scum of academia, those who discriminate and harass, the bilious lechers and sexual abusers of the young. And yet it must be done. Because if I don’t do it, who will? And these miscreants must not be allowed to slither away into the dark recesses of our classrooms and buildings, attempting to rehabilitate their reputations or escape scandal altogether. No, they must be publicly denounced and shamed, as much as can possibly be done from my vantage point.
So today I introduce three new categories on Thus Spake Zuska:
- Sex discrimination
- Sexual harassment
- Sex offenders
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the educational context, sexual harassment is unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that interferes with a student’s ability to learn, study, work or participate in school activities. In the employment context, it is unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that interferes with an employees work performance or creates a hostile or intimidating work environment. Sexual assault and rape are the most severe physical forms of sexual harassment.
Have you ever heard male privilege and white privilege described as the water fish swim in? It’s all around them, so all-encompassing as to be taken for granted, hardly to be noticed, just a condition of existence. Consider these new categories on Thus Spake Zuska as an attempt to help you notice the water. Think of it this way: Women scientists and engineers are swimming – and choking – in the effluent from the discrimination and harassment factories, while the white males are splashing around happily in the clear little pond preserve. What they don’t realize is how limited and insipid their sterile little world is. And how costly to the rest of us is its maintenance.
Here’s a nifty statistic from AAUW: 51% of male college students admit to sexually harassing someone in college. Yep, that’s 51%, and they admitted it, folks. And that’s just the students.